Devils Hole Pupfish

Did you know the the driest national park in North America is home to what has been described as the world’s rarest fish? Death Valley National Park is home to tiny but extremely hardy pupfish species that are unique to the areas where they live. This includes the Devils Hole Pupfish which is named after the geographic feature in the park, and is the only place in the world where this specific species of pupfish is found. Only a few inches long, these pupfish have adapted to survive some of the harshest conditions of any fish, including high salt levels and temperatures of up to 108°F.

Eleven thousand years ago the climate underwent significant changes in this area, and the vast system of shallow lakes and rivers that once covered the area slowly dried up. Out of this ancient water system pupfish habitats fed by salty, isolated springs endured. This resulted in isolated populations of pupfish.

The pupfish found in Devils Hole, a detached unit of Death Valley National Park, are critically endangered, with a population of only a few hundred individuals. The Devils Hole pupfish (Cyprinodon diabolis) is endemic only to this single spring-fed cave, and was listed as endangered in 1967. Conservationists have been working since then to stabilize the population and prevent its extinction.

While there are other species of pupfish in the Death Valley area, scientists believe that some, including the Shoshone Pupfish and Tecopa Pupfish, have already gone extinct.

The endangered Devils Hole Pupfish
The endangered Devils Hole Pupfish.

Underwater Innovations

Researching this unique species, which can survive huge temperature differences and live in water much saltier than the ocean, has been a focus of the park service for decades, and DVC has helped further that work.

With a generous grant from the Offield Family Foundation to the Death Valley Fund, the DVC provided funding for a research study to determine if special video equipment could help researchers more accurately track the length of fish underwater. In 2011, those results were published in the North American Journal of Fisheries Management.

A diver measures Devils Hole Pupfish with a stereo video camera.
A diver measures fish with a stereo video camera.
Devils Hole spring from the viewing overlook where the Devils Hole Pupfish live.
Devils Hole spring from the viewing overlook.


Administered by the DVC, the Devils Hole Pupfish Research Fund supports pupfish research that is innovative or might otherwise not be possible due to funding, such as the Pupfish video measurement study.

The Conservancy works closely with the National Park Service and other nonprofits and organizations in the area to further our shared mission of preserving and celebrating the amazing animals, beauty, and history contained within Death Valley National Park.

Devils Hole Area

Death Valley National Park


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